Mayor Bill de Blasio is not immune to the arbitrary and traditional milestone of the evaluation of a mayor’s 100 days in office, a date that now has been exceeded by more than a week. Those few extra days do not alter the fact that his first term is highlighted by an explosion and explosive news.
The explosion that happened March 12 in East Harlem—in which eight people were killed, 70 were injured and two apartment buildings were turned into a pile of rubble and scattered debris—rocked the city and could have rocked the de Blasio administration. But he was Billy on the spot, matching the speed with which former Mayor Rudy Giuliani got to 9/11 and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg got to Hurricane Sandy.
However, the recent polls seem to show him lagging behind his predecessors for the same number of days at the helm, and a Quinnipiac poll last month showed a 27 percent dip in his approval rating from the 72 percent margin of victory last November. There was slight improvement in early April by another poll, but there are good polls, bad polls and polls with more distinction than difference.
The explosive news occurred just the other day, when it was reported that the NYPD was ending its furtive spying on the Muslim community, and this form of racial profiling compares favorably with the mayor’s stance on stop-and-frisk, measures that reflect his choice of Bill Bratton as police commissioner, replacing Ray Kelly.
If not exactly explosive news, the mayor’s ongoing fight over charter schools may be something he will have to live with for quite a while. The consensus seems to suggest he came out OK on this one by allowing the continuance of most of the schools, though putting the brakes on three others. His less than excited approach to charter schools has put him in direct confrontation with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the man from Albany got the last word on this by assuring a flow of cash to the city’s charter schools. Meanwhile, the imbroglio over pre-K can be seen as another victory for the mayor, even if he didn’t get all the money he requested.
The meat of this will take place in the fall when thousands of 4-year-olds line up for their keepers, and like the Affordable Care Act, we have to wait to see what the final numbers are and if follow-up programs are put in place to ensure the progress of our young people.
The plan to tax the rich to pay for pre-K fizzled out, but the mayor’s determination to fight to do something about income and economic inequality should keep his base content—at least temporarily.
His failure to appoint more African-Americans to his team is a growing concern, and if the recent rumblings and grumblings are any indication, this issue may fester and become more than a bit nettlesome for him. Illustrating the point, dozens of clergy and activists gathered on the steps of City Hall on April 17 to call on de Blasio to “deal righteously with his strongest electoral base.”
Ministers from across the city, including Calvin Rice, pastor of the New Jerusalem Baptist Church; Marvin B. Hooks, pastor of First AME Zion Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant; and Edward Davis, president of Clergy United for Community Empowerment, joined other community groups to assess the mayor’s first 100 days in office and to call for justice and equality for Blacks and Latinos in New York City.
“Justice continues to be an elusive dream for Blacks in New York, and this mayor has added layers of bricks to the walls that divide in this, the ‘tale of two cities,” said the Rev. Dennis Dillon, the publisher of The New York Christian Times and pastor of the Brooklyn Christian Center.
Dillon, the chief architect for the Black Church Mean Business Movement and founder of many citywide clergy groups, including Churches United to Save and Heal, is calling on the mayor to show fairness to the Black community through a more balanced set of appointments.
Calling themselves Clergy United For Fairness (CUFF), the group wants equality for Blacks and for de Blasio to “reverse some of his unjust appointments.”
“That the mayor would fill all the key criminal and civil justice slots without including a single Black leader in the five key positions is wrong; it’s a slap in the face of our community,” stated Charles Billups, president of the Grand Council of the Guardians. One Hundred Blacks in Law Enforcement and the National Latino Officers Association represented by retired NYPD officers Noel leader and Anthony Miranda joined this call for equity.
In his defense, de Blasio spokeswoman Marti Adams told the AmNews, “In his appointments to date, Mayor de Blasio has kept his promise to build an effective administration that looks like New York City. And by any measure, Mayor de Blasio’s appointments have made this, by far, the most diverse administration that the city has seen in decades.”
According to Adams, “African-Americans account for approximately 23 percent of New York City’s population, and make up 26 percent of the appointees announced by de Blasio.
Phil Eure (appointed by DOI Commissioner Mark Peters), NYPD IG is African-American. Zach Carter, Corporation Counsel; and Maya Wiley, Counsel to the Mayor—also African-American—both play a role in shaping the administration’s criminal justice policy as members of the mayor’s senior cabinet.”
What the mayor has to be mindful of is when and where to place his priorities, which battles to choose and what squeaky issues need the oil. It was good to see that he momentarily sidestepped the debate about the horse carriages and whether they should be banished and the horses put out to pasture. That’s less important than keeping his eyes on the prize of affordable housing, income disparity, infrastructure improvements and making sure his administration lives up to the more realistic promises he has made.
For the most part, it’s been a promising first 100 days, and unlike former Knicks coach Mike Woodson, he has a number of days and ways to make his legacy ensure a second term, and that’s something most New Yorkers seem to want at this point, despite his allegiance to the Boston Red Sox.